Tag Archive | baby lawrence

With More Complete Coverage..

Journalism 101.  Start every story with your best sound and your best video.  Don’t bury the lead.  With that… this month is my last at KETV, after 15 years as a journalist at the only station I’ve ever known.

***

When I was a little girl, I used to sit on the stairs in our split level house in Papillion, with my legs dangling through the steps and a notebook in front of me.  I would just write.  I would write about my day.  I would play the game Life by myself, and use each space as a prompt to write a fictional story.  I’ve kept a journal since I had huge glasses and buck teeth.  In college, long-form essays and papers weren’t hassles, I relished them; I love letting the words just HAPPEN, and the surge of accomplishment when those words come full circle and everything just FITS.

I’ve always been a natural ‘performer’.  I was the ham hogging the attention for our 1st generation camcorder, jumping in front of my Dad with a goofy voice or song whenever he had the thing rolling.  I tried out for show choir every year I could, and joined the speech team my very first year of high school.  Speaking just came easily for me; and I was GOOD at it.  Forensics, theater and choir were my LIFE in high school.

I was never in journalism.  I didn’t carry around a Barbara Walters lunchbox.  I floated around my first year of college not knowing where I belonged or what my future looked like.  My sophomore year at UNL, I took Introduction to Broadcasting with Tom Spann, and was fascinated by a world of history, SHARING history, writing, and reporting.  Somehow the idea of an internship surfaced, and KETV was the station I grew up watching.  My mom bumped into longtime weekend anchor/reporter Pamela Jones at a city meeting, got contact information for the intern program, and I emailed Managing Editor Joe Kasmir the next day.  I showed up for my interview a good half an hour early.. and I will never forget walking through the Newsplex doors, overwhelmed to see the same set and newsroom I had watched on TV for so long.  Julie Cornell and Rob McCartney were just finishing the 6pm broadcast, and Julie looked up and smiled at me.

***

How do you sum up 15 years?

My first breaking news live shot at NP Dodge Park… that was God awful.

Covering my first night of tornadoes as an intern, Scott Buer at the wheel of the car, and me in the passenger seat wearing a green skirt suit and heels, trekking around in mud and rain COMPLETELY unprepared, but willing to stay out as long as Scott did.

Talking to a suspect in jail dubbed the ‘Bare Butt Bandit’, and hearing later from my best friend’s now-husband: ‘I said, Please God, let Brandi be doing that story..’

An Iowa shooting late at night with photojournalist Mike Richard, and then lying in the backseat on the way home  with my eyes squeezed shut, battling a nauseous migraine.

Live shots on the field at Memorial Stadium with Rob on one side and Jon on the other.. when a stray football was punted right into the side of my face.  Hearing my Assistant News Director Vonn Jones yelling in my ear ’30 seconds!!’ as I tried to regain my composure.. as did Jon and Rob (from dying laughing…)

Driving 8 hours throughout the night with Justin Riviera to cover an arrest in the Jon Benet Ramsey murder in Boulder, Colorado.  I was overwhelmed by literally HUNDREDS of rabid reporters; he shoved me and said ‘get in there, Petersen!’

Covering an afternoon and evening of tornado threats across western Iowa with photojournalist Dave Hynek.  Laughs because of a nerve-wracking live shot.. laughing that turned to chaos and sheer sadness when we learned less than an hour later about the tragedy at the Little Sioux Boy Scout Camp.  We worked through the night side by side, waiting for the details that would shake our community and the country.

Countless tears when things went wrong.  Crying to my roommate, wondering what I should have done better.  Coming home and sobbing to myself, questioning my decisions as not only a reporter, but a human being.

Westroads.  Derek Ruth.  The Butternut fire. The paralyzed bride.  Clayton Hildreth.  Evan Sharp.  Pediatric brain cancer.  Amber Harris.  Baby Lawrence.  La Paz, Mexico.

JP Carter.  John Matya.  Trisha Meuret.  Tom Elser.  Joe Kasmir.  Cathy Beeler.  Jay Roberts.  Vonn Jones.  Jon Schuetz. Sean McMahon. Justin Riviera.  Renee Ludvik.  Kristyna Engdahl.  Jeremy Maskel.  Adrian Whitsett.  Andy Ozaki.  Natalie Glucklich. Melissa Fry.  ROB, ANDY, DAVE. My coworkers that have become my family.

Through KETV, I met my husband.  I was on air throughout my pregnancies with both of my boys.  We moved; twice.  This is where we grew up; this is home.

At KETV we lost Joe, my mentor who hired me, fueled my passion for journalism, and always, ALWAYS pushed me to be better, while making me feel like I was really something special.  I often wish he had been alive to see me anchor ‘the big show’.

We lost Jeff Frolio, the photographer who told me about jazz, and how special music was for him and his wife.  It was the music at his final service that broke me down.

***

Just like my stories… in so many ways, THIS story has come full circle for me.  My sweet ‘baby’ boy Easton will start Kindergarten in a few short weeks.  Guys, I need to be here with my children.  I need to hear about their days, I need to be there for school concerts and carnivals and dinner on our deck.  I need to hear THEIR stories, and I need to be PART of their stories when they look back and share them throughout their lives.  News is a business like no other; it never stops.  Tornadoes don’t drop from the sky from 9-5, Monday through Friday.  Tragedies don’t happen just while we’re on the clock.  There will be another journalist, waiting and ready, to slide into that spot next to Rob to anchor our evening newscast every night, but I am my boys’ ONLY MOTHER.  I am the ONLY MOMMA they will ever have.

God works in mysterious ways; he always has a plan, though we may not understand it as it’s unfolding.  Next month, I will join the Communications team with Westside Community Schools.  I still get to tell stories; GREAT stories about incredible students, teachers making a difference, programs that impact generations of kids.  I get to showcase the GOOD in our world; I get to WRITE.  But every day, I also get to go home to my family.  We can eat dinner together.  We can play at the park, and watch the sunset, wake up the next morning and do it all over again.  I know I’ll be home every Christmas morning, I’ll get to watch fireworks with my kids every 4th of July, I get to stay at the pool with them Sunday mornings instead of putting on my makeup, straightening my hair and heading to the station.  I need to say this: I have SO MUCH RESPECT for working parents, regardless of their shifts.  People all over America work crazy hours, love what they do, and love their lives at home.  I work with many of them here at 7!

For me.. it’s just time.  Still, as I write this, I still feel the tears welling up behind my eyes.  I am so excited for this new opportunity and new chapter in my life, but it truly is so hard to say goodbye.  My fear is that I didn’t matter.  That time will go on and it will be like I was never there. That sounds really narcissistic and egotistical; truly, I’ve tried to make a point in my career to NOT make everything about me, to make our stories about THE PEOPLE, PLACES, AND ISSUES we are sharing.  But to everyone throughout these 15 years who’s made me feel ‘like a big deal’.. to everyone who has watched us, followed us, trusted us.. THANK YOU.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you.  I don’t have words beyond that.. but I hope you understand the deep gratitude from the bottom of my heart: THANK YOU.

WATCH KETV.  You will NEVER find a better journalist than Rob McCartney.  This dude is one of the best human beings I have ever known; he cares, he listens, he is always asking questions and trying to dig a little deeper to share the most complete story possible, and I’d argue NO ONE is trusted as a journalist in our state more than Rob.  He is noble, smart, a leader, compassionate.  He is a good friend.  Bill Randby is HANDS DOWN THE BEST meteorologist you could ever turn to; NO ONE cares more about providing people accurate information than this guy, and truly one of the most genuinely KIND people I have ever met.  Kristyna Engdahl is BRILLIANT.  Her writing is phenomenal, she’s fair, she has a GIFT for public speaking and thinking on her feet, and I WISH everyone at home could meet her and feel her energy in person.. because she makes EVERY DAY better when you’re around her.  Andy Kendeigh is the big brother I never had–always supportive, always caring, just an AMAZING GUY and such a wonderful friend.  And holy crap, is this guy GOOD.  Athletes and coaches LOVE him for a reason–he’s hilarious, hard working, devoted to what he shares every night and throughout every season.  In addition… our future is so very bright.  Alexandra Stone, Chinh Doan, Laurann Robinson, Sean Everson, Matt Serwe, Cem Brinklow, Ashley Nodgaard, Josh Gear, Davonte McKenith, David Earl, Katie Bane, Tanner Kahler, Matt Lothrop, Camila Orti… all of the people you see and many you don’t… they are HUNGRY for good journalism.  They want to tell good stories.  They are willing to sacrifice sleep, personal time, personal LIVES, to make KETV the best it can be.  This team IS TRULY THE BEST.  You will not find local news in our state that is better–YOU JUST WON’T.

***

I knew this day was coming.  I didn’t think it would be this WEIRD.  That’s the only word that makes sense.  I don’t have enough words, and at the same time, I feel like I’ve said too much.

We’ve got a few weeks left, Omaha–let’s make it awesome.  Westside, I hope to make you proud.  KETV, I hope I’ve made a mark, some kind of difference.

And to my boys.. I love you.  Let’s go hunt some pokemon and have a great morning together.

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Photo courtesy Photography By CB

This Is How A Heart Breaks

We’re just the narrators, the storytellers.  We are the witnesses who relay the facts, the who what when where why.

WHY.

What if there IS NO why.

What if we, as journalists, are among those asking why.

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His name was Lawrence Bolden III.  A big name for such a little boy.  Most of Omaha (and beyond) knew him simply as Baby Lawrence, a cherubic toddler, grinning from his hospital bed as his mom and nurses encouraged him to smile.  I went to his funeral this afternoon.

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 Her name was Kayla Hebenstreit.  That smile.. stunning, and GENUINE.  When we shared Kayla’s story last December, how she was diagnosed with cancer for a fourth time just one month after delivering her first baby, hundreds of thousands of people were touched by her fight.  Kayla passed away Sunday morning.

WHY.

They were two people who just GOT life, who did everything right.  Lawrence exhibited pure love and strength.  At just two years old, all he knew was how to love.  He scanned a room for his momma no matter who else was there.  He grinned for his daddy while sitting on his lap in the hospital.  He cooed for the Children’s Hospital nurses who cared for him for so long.  He just LOVED.

Kayla didn’t dream of money or yachts or Jimmy Choos.. she treasured every kiss from her husband, every moment cradling her baby girl, Kendall.  Her message to her daughter, back when we spoke in December, was that she just wanted her to know how hard she tried to beat this, and how much she loved her.

And their families.. Lawrence’s mom, Shalina, a woman who got up early every single day to get her little girls to school, work full time, then rush her family every single night to her baby boy’s bedside at the hospital.  Joe Hebenstreit didn’t leave his wife’s side in her final weeks, working from home a few hours a day so he’d always be there for his best friend and love.

Why did two such incredible people and their loved ones have to face such unimaginable fights?  Why did Kayla’s cancer come back when she’d beat it so many times?  Why didn’t Baby Lawrence’s transplant, a miracle in itself, work?

WHY.

PREACHY ALERT from a mom who listened to One Sweet Day today, while watching a home video of Lawrence crawling in his hospital room.  Go home tonight and look, really look, into the eyes of your babies, husbands and wives, and loved ones.  Smile.  Hug them and kiss them.  Laugh.  When the tiny little things we let ruin our days come up.. remember, they are NOTHING.   Everything? LOVE.  I guess that’s what I’m trying to take from this.  That even though my eyes are sore from crying, and my heart is breaking for these families, I will try to pass on what Lawrence and Kayla taught me.  TO LOVE deeper and to put aside the crap that doesn’t matter.  As one of Lawrence’s family members said at his funeral today, if a 2-year old can go through all of the surgeries, procedures, needle pokes and pinches, and still just SMILE… WE certainly should.  If a new mother, facing painful, grueling treatments just for the chance at life with her family, can still SMILE, WE should.  Be thankful for every GOOD moment, celebrate LIFE and time together.  LOVE.

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Lawrence and Kayla, your legacies will live on.  Those who knew you are better people because you were in their lives.  You don’t have to fight anymore, no more pain and suffering.  I pray you have found peace.

I know you found love.

**

To learn more about Kayla Hebenstreit, join her thousands of supporters in Kayla’s Crew; click here for the Kayla’s Crew Facebook page, and click here for the website.  You can also read my first blog post on Kayla, You Think You Have Time.

To learn more about Lawrence Bolden III, click here to visit his Facebook page.  You can also read my blog post about Lawrence and his journey, Saving Baby Lawrence.

Saving Baby Lawrence

There are few things more innocent, more perfect, more beautiful, than watching a baby turn because they recognize the sound of their parent’s voice.  Thinking back on those moments with my own boys brings me to tears.  I remember seeing their first smiles, and knowing they were smiling at me, their momma.

The first time I met Baby Lawrence, that’s what I remember most.  He only had eyes for his mom.

Shalina and Lawrence

We get Facebook messages, tweets, and emails everyday from viewers asking us to do stories.  THANK YOU for that!  YOU are the eyes and ears of our community, YOU are who help us tell stories.  I wish we could tell them all.

I don’t know how many messages I got that day last March, but there was SOMETHING about Shalina Bolden’s message to me that pulled at my heart.  A mother, writing to me from her son’s room at Children’s, where he had been for MONTHS.  Her son was very sick with a very rare disease; she needed help.

#CantStopWontStop

She had that phrase EVERYWHERE across her Facebook page.

#CantStopWontStop

Shalina Bolden would not quit fighting until her son was living a healthy, happy life.

#CantStopWontStop

***

Lawrence and my son, Evan, are less than two months apart in age.  As any mom does, I couldn’t help but compare the two.  First, BABY LAWRENCE IS A BIG BOY!!  I think during that first visit, Shalina told me she was buying 2T t-shirts for Lawrence’s 1st birthday outfit.  He was also popping four teeth at the time and was a drooling machine!  But while my little Evan was scooting around and playing with toys (mostly his brother’s), Baby Lawrence was stuck in his hospital bed.  The same hospital bed he had been in for FIVE MONTHS.  Lawrence was born with complete Di’George Syndrome, possibly the first child in Nebraska to have it.  Lawrence had lung issues, a heart defect and NO IMMUNE SYSTEM.  To even see him, my photographer Dave Hynek and I, as well as Children’s Media Relations Director Cherie Lytle, had to scrub our hands and gown up top to bottom, (including our faces, hair and shoes), before entering Lawrence’s room.  A simple cold that our bodies could fight off, could’ve killed Lawrence.

FIVE MONTHS.  He’d been in that bed FOR FIVE MONTHS.  That’s all I kept thinking about.  He hadn’t been to a park.  He hadn’t been in a stroller.  He couldn’t just crawl around his living room floor playing with blocks and Hot Wheels.  He’d been in a hospital room for five months.

That got to me, and what almost brought me to tears was thinking about the time he spent in that room alone.  Shalina worked full time at a nursing home.  She often went straight to Lawrence’s bedside after her shift, and her young daughters knew Children’s like a second home.  Still, I kept thinking of those hours she couldn’t be there, and of Lawrence, alone in his hospital bed.

“I just want Lawrence to have a chance at life,” Shalina told me that day, through tears.  “To understand what it’s like to not be in a hospital bed.”

Shalina got word of a procedure that offered hope; a thymus transplant only being performed by one doctor at Duke University, and it was not federally approved.  At the time Shalina contacted me, the state of Nebraska had denied the family’s request, twice, to cover a thymus transplant.  Doctors told Shalina Bolden that Lawrence might live to see his second birthday.

#CantStopWontStop

***

Our first story aired March 30, 2014.

 Baby Lawrence, wearing a onesie reading ‘Bananas for Mommy’, stole viewers’ hearts around the country (ABC News also picked up his story.)  Changes were already in the works; after our interview with Shalina we learned the state set aside earlier coverage denials.  Advocates with the state of Nebraska, Duke University Medical Center including Dr. Louise Markert, and Lawrence’s team at Children’s, all joined forces to figure out a solution.

#CantStopWontStop

***

April 14, 2014, I was sitting at my desk in the Newsplex and took a phone call.

It was Shalina Bolden, in tears.  Nebraska Medicaid approved Lawrence’s transplant.  Photographer John Matya and I were there as Shalina told her family, friends and the nurses who had cared for her baby for so many months, that Baby Lawrence was finally getting his surgery.  He had just turned 1 year old a few days earlier.

baby lawrence birthday

“It took a couple of minutes for it to digest and then tears just fell down my face,” Shalina told me.

At that point, Lawrence was third on the transplant list.  He had to be healthy enough to fly to Duke; he had to be healthy enough for surgery.

Shalina had to leave her job.. and her two daughters.  She had to find someone to take care of her little girls, while she took care of her little boy in a strange place far from home.

Bolden family

What Shalina thought would be eight weeks turned into nearly four months, waiting for that bittersweet moment when she’d leave her children to give her baby boy a chance at life.

baby lawrence july

#CantStopWontStop

***

August 19, 2014, Baby Lawrence, at just 16-months old, took his first jet ride.

lawrence on plane

“We landed and Lawrence slept through the whole flight and everything,” Shalina messaged me.

More waiting. Lawrence stood for the first time on September 18th..

September 18, Lawrence standing for first time

He started to learn how to crawl in his new hospital room..

lawrence crawling

His mom rarely left his side..

shalina and lawrence sept

..heartbreaking for this mother of not one, but three children.  While Shalina and Lawrence waited in North Carolina through August and then September, her sister cared for her daughters, Ja’Era and Ja’Lesia, 20 hours away in Omaha.

October 11, girls at school txt from teacher

“I miss my girls like crazy.  It is very hard to be away,” Shalina told me.  “My oldest daughter just had a birthday, that was super hard, but I’ve explained it to them so they understand why I’m away.”

#CantStopWontStop

***

September 26, 2014.
“A pray has been answered today!” Shalina posted on Facebook.  “I got confirmation that Lawrence will be getting his transplant October 9th!!! If everyone can keep him in your prayers.”

On the morning of October 9, 2014, ‘Baby Lawrence’ Bolden finally received the transplant his mom fought so hard for.

 October 9 post op 2
Later that same day, Shalina sent me a message.

“Everything went good, it only took an hour,” she said.  “He is already back to being busy Lawrence.”

See for yourself; click here to watch KETV’s follow up featuring Baby Lawrence’s story and transplant

I cannot get ENOUGH of this little man.  So many surgeries, so many needle pokes and painful procedures and long waits.  And yet, he is SO SWEET!  Always smiling, always big, open eyes checking out his world, and still, always looking at his momma.

shalina shirt

Author Elizabeth Stone once wrote: “Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ”

As a mother, you would do anything for your child.  You would take on their pain so they wouldn’t feel it.  You stay awake all night holding them if it gives them comfort.  You would die in an instant for them.

Shalina Bolden NEVER took no for an answer to save her little boy.

#CantStopWontStop

God willing, she’ll have her little boy home and healthy, with his sisters, for the first time in a year.. just in time for Christmas.